SPORTS, WELLBEING

The correlation between exercise and good mental health

Good mental health and a positive self-image are directly related.

This is especially pertinent for university students, particularly those new to the university lifestyle. First year students may feel the pressure of new experiences and feelings, which can bring on new levels of stress, anxiety and depression. Exercise is a great way to combat these emotions.

At university, stress, anxiety and depression can become prevalent among students for a multitude of reasons, including exams, a new environment, and a higher difficulty of education. Sport has the ability to take these stresses away and help you deal better with an unsure environment.

The social aspect of a sport can be a real draw for many individuals, and this exposure to new people, new friends and a team environment can really help provide motivation for darker times.

Not all sport has to be team orientated, however. Running, swimming and cycling are all examples of sports I have turned to when a break is needed from the pressure of university life. I have found that running has often provided me with the necessary headspace to think through my situation and give me some clarity in difficult situations. Cycling, (often long distances,) gives me a feeling of accomplishment and achievement when I take a look at the map and realise how far I have gone. It doesn’t matter what level your interest is in sport, there will be something for you.

Exercise has the benefit of improved self-esteem, improved sleep, increased energy levels and reduced stress. Therefore, it can be a powerful tool in combating mental health issues. It is not widely known that “exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as anti-depression medication” (helpguide.org) but I believe this fact should be recognised amongst students. Exercise is good for you physically, mentally and emotionally.

For me, sport has the ability to distract my mind from essays and stress while I am participating in it, as well as making me feel positive about myself afterwards. I go to a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class twice a week, and regardless of my feelings before the session, I always leave feeling more positive and relaxed, whether or not I perform well at the sport. I find that while I am in the Jiu jitsu zone, I cannot focus on anything else; it’s a great remedy for assessment stress.

At the University of Lincoln, there are a multitude of opportunities to get involved in exercise and sports, of both the individual and team varieties. The many sport societies at the university range from Archery to Yoga. Check out the student union website for more detail: https://lincolnsu.com/activities/sports

Check out my blog regarding mental health among men at university: https://studentlife.lincoln.ac.uk/2019/10/28/the-importance-of-men-talking-about-mental-health-at-university/

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Meet the author

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Richard Croxford

I'm a 3rd year Politics and International Relations student from Birmingham. I love training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, running, and flying in a glider near Stratford-Upon-Avon, in Warwickshire. At university I have been learning Arabic outside of class and have an interest in completing a masters in the international relations of the Middle East after I finish my degree. I especially enjoy writing articles around politics, sport and mental health.

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